In America, we collectively waste over 35 million tons of food per year. Although food waste is not a new problem, it is a mounting one: America’s per capita food waste has increased by 50 percent since 1974. Wasted food is now the largest categorical component of municipal solid waste (MSW), accounting for over 21% of the MSW that reaches landfills and incinerators.
A mere 3.9% of the overwhelming tonnage of wasted food is donated or composted. This paltry figure accounts for both food and other organic material. The rest is left to rot and emit methane (CH4), an especially potent greenhouse gas that is 21 times more harmful than carbon dioxide (CO2). The decomposition of food waste generates nearly 25% of US methane emissions.
Wasted food costs Americans approximately $165 billion annually. In fact, we spent some $750 million each year just to dispose of wasted food. Imagine all the better uses for those heaps of money!
Food production is a resource intensive process. Cultivation of food that is ultimately wasted is responsible for approximately 25 percent of all fresh water and 4 percent of the oil consumed. In short, after investing substantial money, time and effort and consuming natural resources to grow, harvest, distribute, process, prepare and serve food, we toss 30-40% of our food supply into the trash without so much as a second thought – and we almost always pay for the privilege of doing so.
For more information on food waste, reference Dana Gunders, Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill, Natural Resources Defense Council (2012).